In the past six plus years that I’ve been posting–and you’ve been commenting–on this blog, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Starting out with articulating and discussing Old Money characteristics and the Old Money philosophy, we’ve branched off of that theme more than occasionally.
We’ve discussed having cash on hand and renting vs. putting a down payment on a house and making mortgage payments. We’ve discussed the fundamentals of Old Money Style and what one needs in terms of a clothing inventory in order to dress with timeless, understated elegance…comfortably. We’ve bounced around ideas about how to teach children about money.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time detailing the ins and outs of life in Paris. Many of you have, in one way or another, been very supportive of each other as we’ve tried to navigate and negotiate the pandemic and its ramifications.
But, as we have many new readers joining our community every week, I think it might be a good idea to circle back and reaffirm the basics of this way of life we call Old Money.
So let me pin down a few fundamentals to remind ourselves…and inform our new members.
Doing The Right Thing.
This is a term often tossed about in today’s society. It’s easy to talk the talk. It’s not so easy sometimes to walk the walk.
This primary concept harkens back to age-old precepts of honor, which is holding yourself to a standard regardless of whether or not someone else is looking, what it will cost you, regardless to the behavior of those around you.
It also overlaps into chivalry. In this context, not so much the idea of a stronger man protecting a woman (though it does include that, in extreme circumstances). It’s more about protecting and advocating for the rights of the the less fortunate, the vulnerable, those who’ve been dealt not quite the good hand of cards some of us have.
Being Modest And Discreet.
It’s easy for Doing The Right Thing to bleed into Being Modest and Discreet. The last thing people who may be struggling in life need is affluent people flashing the bling, rubbing their noses in the reality of income inequality.
It should be enough for us to simply know that we can afford luxuries. When we do enjoy them, we should be circumspect in the way we do so–and grateful that we have options.
This attitude informs our clothing choices and our manners. We treat everyone with respect.
Thinking For The Long Term.
Thinking about next month, next year, ten years from now, the next generation, and the generation after that changes our behavior. We aren’t thinking exclusively about ourselves. We make better decisions in the present moment that have better outcomes in the future. And our decisions impact us as individuals, our families, and our society.
We see our life as a gift that we should make the most of. We accept our position as one of caretakers who take custody of a legacy, preserve it and nourish it, and then pass it on. We limit our greed. We restrain our less than noble impulses. We plant now, knowing that we may not be around for the harvest.
The legacy we care for could be one we inherited from our family. It could be a responsibility we have to our community. It is most certainly a debt we owe our country.
All of these platitudes feel good to consider. We nod eagerly and easily when we think of them or discuss them. Adhering to them in uncomfortable situations is quite another matter. Many times, only we will know if each of us took the high road under difficult circumstances.
For we are each our most accurate analyst, our most informed critic, and the only audience from which we need approval.
I’d welcome comments from you: what are some other principles you follow? And what does following those mean in your daily lives?
12 thoughts on “Back To Basics”
I was raised to always do the right thing even if no one else is doing it. It has been painful at times, but I can face myself in the mirror the next day.
Doing the Right Thing is like telling the truth. One only has to do, or say it, once.
One of the issues I’ve run across is that people, some in what I would call ‘genuine ignorance’, don’t actually grasp the difference between doing what they think is right, as opposed to doing the right thing. At the coal-face in hazardous industries, this inability to see and acknowledge the difference has sadly led to much blood and many tears.
Within the last 2 years my family of 4 purchased a new home. I adopted one of your real estate principles when looking for and purchasing a new home. We left our emotions on the table and looked for a home in a safe neighborhood that we could simply just live in. It is on the smaller size scale and modest in price. We did not purchase new furniture and buy new decorations for this new house. I accepted old furniture from family. We simply updated paint and threw a blanket over an old couch. This leaves money to invest, educate our children, purchase life’s necessities. At one point during the COVID crisis our income was cut in half and because of our modest life style we made it through. Our children observe how we live. This is just 1 small example. We make many mistakes, but sometimes we get it right, and I love that I am learning and experiencing the difference. Thanks Byron
This is a wonderful post, about 8 years ago we purchased an old larger house for a good price in a town with a great magnet school system. As long as their was no mold, asbestos, vermin and a good sewer lateral I can work with the rest. In today’s modern flat screen TV society it’s amazing what you can get in consignment shops for a good price. People don’t even like having rooms anymore, just one big open floor plan. My wife who has a great career took up sewing a few years ago as a hobby created slip covers and patchwork quilts for the furniture in our family room. The front room has wedding gifts from the late 30’s that were wedding gifts to my grand parents that no one wanted. The dinning room and conservatory has some other deals that I cleaned up with “old English” furniture polish. Rather than a family theater with a gigantic TV we put in some old book cases, writing desks and an old comfy leather in an extra bedroom and turned it into a home library. I also love the concept of “putting a sweater on” rather letting my heater run day and night.
I was thinking of something the other day that my high school English teacher said: “There but for the grace of God go I” is the basis of all morality. I think this somehow ties in with the old money way of thinking. With privilege goes responsibility. Much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Something like that.
From Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Ah! Thank you, Elle.
1. Give compliments. It costs no money, takes very little time, and can make a big difference in a person’s day or even longer. Try to make the compliments both genuine and specific, that will make them mean more.
2. Treat all children with kindness and respect. Been volunteering with teens for quite a while; they can tell when you are being real with them. They usually don’t need you to solve their problems, they just need someone to talk to. Just not feeling alone sometimes makes all the difference. An unexpected bonus – having done it for so long, many of those teens are now not only adults but also my friends.
3. “This too shall pass”. Keeping this in mind will help you persevere through the hard times, and to be responsible during the good times.
Allow me to post some further pointers to The Basics. Over the last few years, many posts detail the topics Ethics / Honor / Living By a Code, Modesty / Discretion and Long-Term Thinking, and I think some additional notes might serve aspiring OMGs quite well.
One of them that warrants highlighting was “Old Money, New Traditions” (May 22, 2013), which in addition expounds on the Vocation / Profession to be chosen, Relationships to be kept and last but not least, Dressing the Part.
Another, “Noblesse Oblige: A Working List for the Low Key Rich” (June 19, 2020), added the important feature of Keeping Silent.
My mother, when I complained about something or other, would joke “Ohhhh, poor you. Once I have a moment of spare time again, I’ll feel sorry for you.”
There are, of course, many more gems to be found, but then the archive is wide open.
I would add conservation, kindness to animals and being a steward to the environment. The nice thing about the Old Money lifestyle is that it is supportive of all of those ends. Avoiding “fast” fashion and design, purchasing and maintaining a quality used car, using furniture passed down or purchased at an antique or estate sale— all are old money practices that are sustainable to boot.
Thinking of France with the recent attacks and the heightened Covid lock downs and wishing safety and wellness to all.
Well said Leslie! – my thoughts also.
Hi Byron, hope you are well.
Here is a question I have been meaning to ask you. I loved your book, but when I finished it, I put it down and laughed. I laughed because I realized that I had already learned the majority of the lessons taught in the book without really knowing I was learning them. The man responsible for this education was my second cousin.
My cousin is a great guy. His office in NYC was about the size of one whole floor of a skyscraper, but we would still spend hours in his driveway changing spark plugs on his old daily driver (240k miles, or so, back then) and he would still find time to cut the grass at his parents’ house, without fail. Along the way, he took time to teach this boneheaded college kid (college at the time; still boneheaded, just middle-aged now) some valuable lessons.
So, my question is, how do you thank someone who taught you the principles of an old-money lifestyle without even knowing you were learning?